In Love With Romance Novels, but Not Their Lack of Diversity

Eleven of the publishers agreed to provide their lists. For those who didn’t, Bea and Leah set out to create the list of books published and to identify each author’s race.

The result, released last week by the Ripped Bodice, is “The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing.” It reports that of the romance novels published in 2016 by the 20 largest imprints in the romance genre, 7.8 percent were written by nonwhite authors.

To account for instances in which biographical information on authors was scant or whether they missed titles on publishers’ lists, the sisters appended the study with a 2 percent margin of error.

Beverly Jenkins, a prolific author of historical and contemporary romantic suspense, is not surprised. “It’s indicative of every major industry, regardless of whether it’s publishing, academics, finance or government,” said Ms. Jenkins, who is black, in an interview earlier this week. “It’s a sign of how America treats people of color.”

When she was getting her start as an author in the 1980s, Ms. Jenkins said, publishers told her that they did not see a market for historical fiction about or for black people. “That was proved wrong because I have 37 books in print,” Ms. Jenkins said. Her subjects have included Harriet Tubman’s spy ring.

Her latest book, “Chasing Down a Dream,” is the eighth book in her women’s fiction series, “Blessings,” about a wealthy woman who saves from financial ruin a town in Kansas founded by freed slaves.

Ms. Jenkins’s novels are published by Avon Romance and William Morrow, both of which are imprints of HarperCollins. According to the Ripped Bodice survey, 2.8 percent of the books published in 2016 by Avon Romance were by nonwhite authors. (Avon declined to comment for this article.)

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